Run That Back

Boys Basketball Picks Up Where They Left Off


Landyn Goldberg

The boys basketball team celebrates after a 67-54 win in the C.W. Stessman Invitational championship game against Liberty High School at Liberty. Staley, who was ranked No. 4 in the Kansas City area by 810 Sports, played Liberty, who was ranked No. 5. “It felt really great because we don’t really get to play Liberty, and they’re always good competition, and it’s really fun,” said junior guard Asa Bridges.

Landyn Goldberg

     Boys basketball was on the road to their first state championship in school history last season before being shut down by COVID-19, which solidified them as a true contender. As the 2020-21 season goes on, they’re back to work to get back to that point.

     The team was ranked No. 3 in Missouri Class 6 and No. 4 in the Kansas City area by 810 Sports, and had a record of 20-3 at the end of February.

     Coming off of a state title in the last season, head coach Chris Neff believed the team was looking to rekindle their fire from last year.

     “I hope that last year wasn’t a one-time deal and that we’re building something that can be sustained,” said Neff. “I think that the guys are feeling that way. I feel the whole program is committed to trying to get better every day.”

     The team reached the state final four last year; but due to Covid-19, the Missouri State High School Activities Association was forced to cancel. MSHSAA named Staley, Chaminade, Christian Brothers and Kickapoo high schools as co-champions, leaving some to question the validity of Staley’s champion status. Senior forward Jamaal Davis believed the team questioned it too but used it as motivation.

     “It motivates us because we think the same thing,” said Davis. “We think that we got cheated. We feel like we could have won the whole thing, so we want to go back to prove to people that we were really the champions.”

     The team already reclaimed their championship status in two major Kansas City tournaments: the William Jewell Classic, the C.W. Stessman Invitational, and the Suburban Conference.

     “It gives us a lot of confidence knowing that we want to compete and have our mindset made up of what we want to do,” said junior forward Emmanuel Byrd. “When we win those, we obviously know the plan is working.”

     The team focused on getting better every day and credited it to their practice habits.

     “I think our mentality is to keep winning and keep getting better every day and keep coming to practice and putting in work,” said senior guard Kendrick Stone.

     Focusing on each day was another key, according to junior guard Asa Bridges.

     “We’re just going day by day trying to get better,” said Bridges. “It’s working right now. We just need to keep at it.”

     The team was still working to adapt to playing during the Covid-19 pandemic and has already had to quarantine this season due to a positive COVID test.

      “Every single day, you worry about your athletes and their health and worry about how close our contact is and the time that we spend together so that we can keep all of our loved ones safe,” said Neff. “You just got to be really careful. Following the protocols is of the utmost importance and the No. 1 thing on our mind, but the preparation we try to keep as normal as possible for the players and kids’ sake, but there’s nothing normal about it.”

     The team had their sights set on running back a championship come the springtime.

     “This year is the focus, and trying to get back there is the ultimate goal,” said Byrd.

On Jan. 22 during the C.W. Stessman Invitational championship game against Liberty High school, senior Kendrick Stone rises up to throw down a dunk. That dunk helped shift the momentum back in their favor, leading them on to a run that propelled them to a 67-45 victory. “We really needed that momentum,” said Stone. “We were in a big championship game, so everything just shifted our way after that dunk, and we kept playing together.” (Landyn Goldberg)